To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the sassy, one-woman off-Broadway show that forever put her on our pop-culture map, Sandra Bernhard ( photos by Lydia Marcus and Stan Barouhis ) yet again touring "Without You I'm Nothing." Here we discuss what's new in the revival, gay pride and her concerns as a queer parent. ( Bernhard and partner Sara Switzer have a daughter, Cicely. )
Windy City Times: What does gay pride mean to you, Sandra?
Sandra Bernhard: I think pride is something that comes out of an accomplishment, a job well-finished and seen through. Gay pride has the same idea behind it. We've come from being thought of as minstrels and cheap entertainment and now we're being taken more seriously as parents and partners. It's been an internal struggle and an external sort of celebration of constantly evolving as a community.
WCT: Where do you see the LGBT community in 40 years from now?
SB: Part of the mainstream fabric of culture and life in America and hopefully around the world. I don't mean we're going to lose our sense of uniqueness any more than the Black community has lost theirs. We're always going to have what makes us special, but when you become more accepted in the mainstream you relax a little bit and don't feel the need to be as isolated or defensive.
WCT: What was the best gay moment since Stonewall?Read more story below....
SB: For me personally, there's a piece in my show where it has Sylvester as a backdrop and "Mighty Real" and the Castro Street experience. … It's something I relate to and feel it was a big celebration. The '70s and '80s—the disco kind of era ... I mean, in terms of actual celebratory glamour and entertainment value. On that level.
WCT: How do you feel now that we're in an Obama-led country?
SB: I feel great. Even if he's not ready to fully understand or make a direct change he's always in the process of communicating with smart people who are helping him forge his ideas in a way that is very successful and positive. So I feel really good about it. I wake up and don't even think about it. He's a smart, intuitive person working hard at turning back the draconian philosophy of the Bush administration in a way so nobody can point their fingers and say you're being extreme or liberal. If they do, people know they're blowhards and full of shit. I absolutely adore Michelle. She's a brilliant statesperson in her own right. I look at her and [ can ] imagine her being the president as well but has the woman's touch but not the ego that gets in the way of what she can do as a woman.
WCT: Do you see yourself getting married to Sara?
SB: No, we're not into that. Marriage just doesn't appeal to me in that way. But I'm happy for everybody who needs it and wants it.
WCT: How is she doing these days?
SB: She's fantastic. She's a super-independent, smart, brilliant, tough woman who works in PR, and when I met her she had never been with a woman before. Almost 10 years later, it's the best relationship I ever had.
WCT: What are your biggest concerns as a queer parent?
SB: As an artist and thinking person, I don't think it has anything to do with my sexuality. My biggest concern is my child grows up to have the enthusiasm and joy in simple things and not be swept up in this cynical, smartass attitude the Internet just seems to provoke. I'm really lucky because we send her to a school that's very media-free and they don't study on the computer until 7th grade. They have to go to the library, all the references are from books. I want her to know how to hold something in her hand and appreciate that energy. To be able to communicate directly to somebody and look them in the eye. To be a communicator is for me the most important thing to maintain in the world we're living in.
WCT: Are you ever concerned you'll catch Cicely watching Glenn Beck or the Hannity show?
SB: Oh God, no. She's a huge fan of Rachel Maddow and Keith Oberman. Rachel and her partner have become friends of ours and been over for dinner. She really engages in the conversation. During the whole election process she knew what was going on and understood it. I'm really proud of her.
WCT: And Sara's biggest concern as a parent?
SB: Manners. She's from St. Louis and wants the kid to have great manners.
WCT: So it's the 20th anniversary of "Without You." What changes have been made for this revival, if any?
SB: I would say 70 percent is the big pieces from the original and we weave in new material and freshen it up topically. A lot of the [ additions ] are moment to moment in terms of what's happening that day or week. It's very improvisational. When I did it last year in D.C. for three weeks, it was all about the election.
WCT: How would the show be different today if you wrote it from scratch?
SB: The great thing about "Without You" is it's based so much on my own life and experiences and memories. They're things from my life and wouldn't be all that different.
WCT: Let's talk current events. What are your thoughts on the lovely Miss California?
SB: I don't think there's anything to think about her. She's an automaton. This is a business for Trump; I guess he was run out of the real-estate biz so he has to come up with all these cheap side deals. Even Perez Hilton, I'm sure, loves it because it put him on the map in a whole different way.
WCT: How do you feel about Twitter and Facebook?
SB: Oddly enough, I've started Twittering. It's really easy to do. I use it as a little mini-platform for thoughts and introspection. The MySpace and all that I couldn't figure out how to navigate, but Twitter is really easy so I'm enjoying it. I just want to get out my philosophies and thoughts.
WCT: Whose Twitter would you love to follow?
SB: I don't think I care much about following anybody. I'm not even looking for a dialogue with anybody necessarily. I only want to be followed. Is that so wrong? [ Laughs ]
WCT: What else are you up to lately?
SB: So many things are pending. Suffice to say I will be seen a lot more in TV and film this upcoming year and continue to pursue my live performance as I always have and will. And supposedly this music album I recorded a couple of years ago is going to come out in August. This insane songwriter came to me with and he produced it. Unforeseen problems barred, it's going to be out and called "Whatever It Takes." Chrissie Hynde is on it and a lot of international musicians from around the world.
See www.sandrabernhard.com for tour dates and more info.